While the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program has one stated goal—visits for prisoners and their children—Troop 1500 goes far beyond that, taking a holistic approach to the mother-child relationship.My classmate Julia and her troop are the subject of a documentary, too, and there are more details about that at the link. Good for her. Good for them.
Since its inception in 1998, Troop 1500 has brought some 50 girls together to discuss their hopes, fears and aspirations—both with their mothers and among themselves. Troop 1500 not only facilitates regularly scheduled visits with the Scouts and their moms, but has tackled the difficult and fragile psychological issues of prisoners and their children.
Begun and led by social worker Julia Cuba of the Girl Scouts of the USA’s Lone Star Council, and evaluated by Dr. Darlene Grant, an associate professor of social work at the University of Texas at Austin, Troop 1500 makes a group visit to the Gatesville Women’s Prison once a month. Back in Austin, the troop stays active with weekly meetings, allowing Cuba to keep close tabs on the girls’ family life, school and social activities, as well as their mothers’ progression through the penal system.
Once a month, Troop 1500 also meets for group therapy, giving the girls a place to express themselves and support one another in a structured and supportive environment. When the mothers matriculate from prison, their daughters stay on with Troop 1500 as long as they like, serving as mentors and role models to their friends and new members.
Addressing the emotional needs of these at-risk Scouts has paid remarkable dividends. In a 2003 Texas Monthly interview, Cuba said that 96 percent of the girls in Troop 1500 have stayed in school, and 98 percent have stayed out of the penal system.
(And in a bit of odd worlds-collideness, my mother-in-law did work very similar to this in the Denver area up until a year or so ago.)